The earliest recorded history of Bainbridge Island, Washington, (population 20,308) is in English explorer George Vancouver’s 1792 log, describing a meeting with the Suquamish tribe at the south end of the island, near where he had anchored. In 1841, U.S. Navy surveyor Charles Wilkes mapped and named the island.
The first permanent settlement on Bainbridge Island was by George Meigs, who began a lumber mill at Port Madison. A second lumber mill at Port Blakely became the biggest in the world. Shipyards on the island built schooners and later, during World War II, minesweepers. A one-time Army base at Fort Ward was converted by the U.S. Navy to a secret listening post on the Pacific, intercepting Japanese naval radio communications during the war.
After the war, the Agate Pass Bridge joined the island to the Kitsap Peninsula and state-run ferry service enabled additional commuter traffic to and from Seattle. This ferry brings thousands of tourists to the island each day.
The Bainbridge Island Historical Society is comprised of more than 80 volunteers that serve as docents, collections care assistants, and exhibit assistants for the Society’s museum, which showcases Bainbridge Island’s rich heritage. The museum features exhibits, oral history recordings and transcriptions, subject and family files, and a collection of historic photos, documents, artifacts, and maps. The Society also publishes a seasonal newsletter showcasing its successes and informing residents about the island’s historic areas.
Currently, two volunteer groups are actively raising funds and participating in the renovation of the World War II transmitter building and a Boy Scout log cabin. The cabin is on the National Register of Historic Places, as are the Bainbridge Island Filipino-American Community Hall and the Fort Ward Historic District.
Designated a Preserve America Community in November 2006.